Trauma care experts, practitioners and advocates across the state today urged members Senators to remove language in SB 966 that would dilute the quality of care for patients who have suffered a traumatic injury. Senate Bill 966 is on the Special Order Calendar to be heard on the Senate floor today.
The harmful language would essentially eliminate the Department of Health’s (DOH) role in assessing the need and strategic location for new trauma centers in Florida, and would supplant it with requiring new trauma centers to meet criteria established by the American College of Surgeons (ACS). The DOH is currently working on developing new statewide criteria for trauma center planning by conducting a series of public hearings and requesting expert recommendations from the ACS. The results of the year-long study are scheduled to come out in May 2013, just days following the close of the 2013 Legislative Session.
“We urge members of the Senate to remove the language that was hastily added to Senate Bill 966 that would put Florida’s trauma patients, and the sustainability and quality of our trauma network, at great risk,” said Dr. Ivan Puente, medical director of trauma services at Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach, Fla. “This language would undermine the approval process for new trauma centers and would dilute the quality of Florida’s trauma care, yet the language was not vetted or even considered by any of the health care committees in the Senate. These kinds of changes should not be allowed onto legislation without proper assessment or input, especially when studies and experts are adamantly warning us of the detrimental consequences of such changes.”
Experts warn that an overabundance of trauma centers in one area causes higher-level trauma centers and hospitals to compete for specially-trained trauma surgeons and specialists. This proliferation of trauma centers also prevents existing, verified trauma centers from operating in a financially self-sufficient manner by diverting patients to one of too many, unnecessary trauma centers and preventing any of them from recovering costs.
“The criteria to be met in the State of Florida for trauma centers is much more stringent than those put in place by the ACS,” said Dr. Glenn Summers, trauma medical director at the Bay Medical Center, Sacred Heart Health System in Panama City. “We don’t want this process to go away because when it comes to trauma care and saving lives, we need the most stringent criteria to ensure that patient safety and quality of care is never compromised. I personally cross county lines on a regular basis to train trauma surgeons and continue to build a trauma care network that people in the Florida Panhandle can rely on. Being a trauma provider does not mean we stay inside the walls of our center – we share our information and expertise. You can’t allow for these proposed changes to dilute this system down to the point that people aren’t getting sufficient volumes to preserve our network.”
The ACS recommends having one or two high-level trauma centers for every 1 million people, which is a standard that is met in Florida. Further, studies show that trauma centers and surgeons who treat a large number of seriously injured patients have better outcomes and that the concentration of too many, unnecessary centers in one area greatly compromises the quality of trauma care provided.